Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Castle Waiting, vol. 1

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of Castle Waiting, volume one (Fantagraphics, 2006)

Honestly, I'm no fan of fantasy fiction. If it even looks like somebody's D&D campaign, I lose interest. But I'll give the comics that my wife reads a look-see, and often I'm at least a little pleased by what I find. That's the case with Linda Medley's Castle Waiting, a charming if not essential book that has been sporadically appearing through several publishers for many years. In 2006, Fantagraphics released this gorgeous hardback collection of the first 450-odd pages of story. Seriously, the book is beautifully designed by Adam Grano, and everything from the endpapers to the "from the library of" page to the paper stock perfectly complements Medley's attractive artwork and makes this really stand out as something special.

Unfortunately, I wasn't as taken with the story as I was the artwork or the package. Medley has created a world around a place - a castle that was once lost to time due to a century-long curse and now serves as a refuge - and slowly built a small cast around it. There's a relaxed pace to her storytelling that is sometimes frustrating, either because characters abruptly leave the narrative (did I miss something, or what became of Princess Medora?), or because the narrative sometimes slows to glacial pace to linger on backstory for ages and ages. It seems like a third of the book is devoted to the tales of an order of bearded nuns and how they gained control of a nearby town's mill, but it's all done quite bloodlessly, with no sense of urgency or importance.

For a rainy day read from your library in a bay window, Castle Waiting is perfectly charming and pleasant for what it is, but it's so meatless that you won't lose any sleep waiting for a second volume. Recommended for fans of the genre, I suppose.

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